WASHINGTON — For members of its large freshman class, the House Financial Services Committee is living up to its reputation as a fund-raising hub.
The 12 first-term lawmakers on the committee — 11 Republicans and one Democrat — raised an average of $535,000 for their reelection campaigns between January and June, according to an American Banker analysis of campaign-finance data. That's 32% more, on average, than other House freshmen added to their coffers. Much of the money came from banks, insurance companies, real estate firms, and others with a stake in the committee's work.
The analysis helps quantify a trend that has long been understood by congressional insiders and Washington lobbyists: the Financial Services Committee is an excellent place to raise campaign cash, given the large amount of money that the financial sector spends in the nation's capital.
Gary Jacobson, a professor of political science at the University of California-San Diego and a campaign finance expert, said that fund-raising is one reason that House members seek spots on the Financial Services Committee.
"It's a familiar pattern," Jacobson said in response to the findings.
To conduct the analysis, American Banker looked at contributions from nine sectors related to the Financial Services Committee's work: commercial banking, insurance, securities and investment, credit unions, home building, real estate, accounting, finance/credit companies, and miscellaneous finance.
The contributions were categorized by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based nonprofit organization. Money from both individuals and political action committees was included.
During the current session of Congress, the Financial Services Committee is home to a large group of freshmen who may be vulnerable next fall. These members have a strong incentive to raise as much money as possible in 2011 to scare off would-be challengers. Last year, seven first-term Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee lost their re-election bids.
Of the 11 first-term Republicans on the panel this year, nine come from districts that last session were represented by Democrats. Five of them hail from districts that favored Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008. At least three of them stand a chance of suffering politically as a result of redistricting.
Of particular note are seven freshman GOPers on the committee who are among those members most at risk of losing next year, based on historical voting patterns in their districts. During the first six months of 2011, all seven of these representatives ranked among the top 20 House freshman in fund-raising. The same seven were also in the top 80 among all 435 members of the House.
Perhaps the most endangered newcomer on the Financial Services Committee is Rep. Robert Dold, R-Ill. Dold, whose suburban Chicago district went to Obama by a whopping 23 percentage points in 2008. Dold was elected two years later by a slim 51%-49% margin. He could also be harmed by Illinois' redistricting process.
Of the 94 House freshmen elected last November, Dold currently stands third in fundraising for 2012. Between January and June, he raised $855,000. Of contributions to Dold that have been categorized by the Center for Responsive Politics, about 44% came from donors with an interest in the Financial Services Committee's work. The securities and investment sector was the biggest class of contributor to Dold's campaign.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, also seems likely to be targeted by the Democrats in 2012. He defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy by 14 percentage points in 2010. But Kilroy edged Stivers in 2008, when the district also voted for Obama.
Stivers ranks fourth in fundraising, at $845,000, among House members who were first elected last November. About 46% of his categorized contributions came from sectors with a stake in the Financial Services Committee's work. Atop the list of givers to Stivers' reelection campaign is the insurance industry, followed by commercial banks.
Another first-term Ohio Republican, Rep. James Renacci, raised $610,000 in the first six months of 2011. Of the contributions to Renacci that have been categorized, about 24% came from the financial sector.
Two New York Republicans, Reps. Nan Hayworth and Michael Grimm, could see their districts become more Democratic in 2012 as a result of redistricting. Both Hayworth and Grimm beat Democratic incumbents in close elections last year.
Hayworth, whose district includes part of Westchester County, raised a $711,000 war chest in the first half of the year. Forty-five percent of her categorized contributions came from the financial sector, with securities and investment firms leading the way.
Grimm, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, raised $540,000 between January and June. Of his categorized contributions, 49% came from sectors affected by the Financial Services Committee, led by insurance, commercial banks, and real estate.
Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, a Texas Republican whose district includes much of the southwestern part of the state, defeated a Democratic incumbent in 2010, but still earned less than 50 percent of the vote. He brought in $578,000 in the first six months of 2011. Of the categorized contributions to Canseco's campaign, 41% came from sectors impacted by the Financial Services Committee.
GOP Rep. Sean Duffy represents a northwestern Wisconsin district that prior to 2010 was held by a Democrat for four decades. His haul between January and June was $611,000. Forty percent of his categorized contributions came financial sectors, led by insurance companies and commercial banks.
Three additional first-term Republicans on the Financial Services Committee — Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona, and Rep. Robert Hurt of Virginia — ranked lower than some of their peers in fund-raising, but were still among the top half of House freshmen.
There are two freshman members of the Financial Services Committee who rank relatively low in fund-raising. But compared to their first-term peers on the committee, both Rep. John Carney, D-Del., and Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., represent safe districts.
Although being a member of the House Financial Services Committee clearly boosts a lawmaker's fund-raising capacity, some observers were quick to say that was not the only reason freshman want on the panel.
Michael Malbin, a political science professor at the University of Albany, said that the party leadership in the House generally tries to satisfy the wishes of freshmen, and he suspects that most House freshman who wanted to be on the Financial Services Committee got a spot there.
"It is a good committee for fundraising," Malbin said in an e-mail, "but so are many others."
With 61 members, Financial Services is tied with Armed Services as the biggest committee in the House, even though its size was reduced this session.
Rep. Mike Castle, a former Republican representative from Delaware who left Congress in January after nine terms on the Financial Services Committee, said in an interview that he would like to see the committee made smaller again, in order to force individual members to focus more on policymaking.
"I would hope the people on that committee are very focused on the importance of what they're dealing with and not just serving on it because they're going to raise money," Castle said.